Album Review By Casey Carlson
if you’ve seen Dawes live (Which I hope you have) you’ll know that there are songs that can be brought stratospheric. Songs like When My Time Comes and From a Window Seat can be a few minutes longer than the album version, to put it lightly. In the studio, they fit your typical indie rock/folk rock label. But live, they become a Jam band. For their latest record, Dawes flipped the script a bit, but while still making their songwriting the core of what they do.
Right out of the gate, the album opener and synonym to the album title, Someone else’s café/doomscroller tries to relax clocks in at over 9 minutes long. While that’s unheard of for a rock record these days, it’s only a few seconds shy of Now That It’s Too Late, Maria from All Your Favorite Bands that Dawes put out in 2015. However, on Doomscroller the band focuses more on a prog-rock style jam than Taylor Goldsmith’s heartfelt lyrics. Minnesotans first heard the song during Dawes last tour stop at First Avenue, where I described it as a help>slip>frank style jam. The album version is just as fun to listen to- but since its Dawes – you know their live version will be killer. And the fact that it was perfected by the time the band hit First Avenue back in December is also noteworthy.
But a near ten minute album opener shouldn’t come as a surprise to a typical Dawes fan. They’ve been playing select shows with The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh the last couple of years. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith has also slinging guitar as a guest alongside bands like Goose, while Lee Pardini and guitarist Trevor Meaner have been part of Theo Katzman’s band, who has been even more Instrumental heavy in his live shows than Dawes. While I wouldn’t call it a new direction for the band, I would say that it is along the same road.
But if your ideal version of Dawes focuses around Taylor Goldsmith’s storytelling, Dont discredit Misadventures yet. In Joke In There Somewhere, Goldsmith narrates his world to us singing “A couple walks their dog discussing what to eat for dinner /A runaway is being read his rights /A hotel hosts a conference called “Investment for Beginners” /Some high school coach is breaking up a fight / But there’s a joke in there somewhere / One that I am not prepared to make”. Everything Is Permanent seems to callback to the modern political/technological theme behind 2018’s Passwords with Goldsmith singing: “Level of the rising sea /Everything is permanent now / The politics of Christmas trees / Everything is permanent now / The whole world within one screen / Everything is permanent now / I’m thinking we all should come clean / Everything is permanent now, now, now”
When Dawes released We’re all Gonna Die back in 2016, I remembered it falling a bit flat among Dawes fans at the time. It didn’t sound as familiar as their previous work, and it was the band’s first attempt at reaching for something people haven’t heard before, with very little callbacks to previous efforts. While many fans may fear the same result with Misadventures of Doomscroller, especially with a ten minute rock opera to open the album, There’s still plenty of familiar sound fans will enjoy. Ghost in The Machine sounds blatantly like an Allman Brothers One Way Out Jam. Comes in Waves sounds like a Beach Boys song made in the eighties. Everything is Permanent Now could be a late-career Jackson Browne song if Jackson Browne liked Phish and understood Twitter. All of those bands are ones Dawes have drawn from over the years, and that Dawes fans also love. A band being able to express their lyricism under a different sound shouldn’t be a disappointment. Instead, it’s an accomplishment.
Dawes pulls this off successfully by making sure their sound is still recognizable while flexing their fretboard and keyboard knowledge a lot more than they have in the studio previously. And, it doesn’t miss a singalong song either. Comes in Waves will likely be the next When My Time Comes at concerts. Here’s hoping that song, and many others on the record, make their place in setlists to come.